10/29/09 1:50 AM EST
In enemy territory, a safe enclave
Philly fans unite, celebrate at Shorty's bar in Manhattan
By Barry Wittenstein / Special to MLB.com
He might have been the only one who felt that way, or at least admitted it. Judging by the decibels of the crowd at Shorty's, a Philadelphia cheesesteak bar/restaurant on Ninth Avenue off 42nd Street in Manhattan, the only concern was if owner Evan Stein would run out of free cheesesteaks for everybody.
Stein, a Philadelphia native, gave away 700 free cheesesteaks up until game time. His small watering hole was packed with very hungry, very thirsty and very vocal fans. Even Fox 29, the Philadelphia TV station, was there providing live updates to the folks back home.
Unlike Todd, who had to walk only across town, some of Philadelphia's fanatics came by Amtrak in the afternoon, drove on the New Jersey Turnpike in the pouring rain or now live in the city. Hugh Douglas was there, too. The former Jets and Eagles football player found a place at the bar in front of the flat screens and stayed put for the night.
As game time inched closer and the Phillies in their visiting grays were announced to the packed Stadium crowd with millions watching, each introduction produced chants. Screams of "overrated" reached sonic-boom levels when Derek Jeter appeared on the screen. Then when the DJ at Shorty's pumped up the volume with the theme from "Rocky," the place went berserk with hoots and hollers and a "Let's Go Phillies" chant.
Danny, one of the three bartenders proudly wearing a Yankees hat and jersey, and apparently feeling, for some reason, that the friendly-yet-hostile crowd needed to be taunted, stood up on a stool behind the bar and let out a "Let's Go Yankees" yelp. When the reaction was a little too tame for his liking, Danny taunted some more with, "Is that all you got?" That worked. The crowd of around 100 jammed shoulder-to-shoulder into this tiny bar almost in unison began a chant that had the walls shaking.
The game hadn't even started.
In the top of the first, as Ryan Howard's double sent Chase Utley to third, everyone began high-fiving, hugging and hollering. And that was without any runs being scored. And when Raul Ibanez made the third out, stranding three, the faithful let out a sigh.
"We got Sabathia's pitch count up, at least," said the ever-positive Jeff from Philly, who moved to New York 33 years ago but can't get that Philadelphia fever out of his blood.
But Jeff thought that Utley might be hurting, a bad omen for the Phils.
"You see how he ran to third?" he said. "My grandmother could have run faster, and she died last year."
In the bottom of the first, as Cliff Lee effortlessly took care of the Bombers, Todd had a bold prediction.
"I think we got this game," he said. "And if we take this game, there's a good chance we got tomorrow's, too. But even if we get of out here with a split, we're doing good."
Jeff disagreed: "It's gonna be a long Series," though he eventually predicted -- what else? -- a second consecutive Phillies championship.
Shoshana, a 27-year old with a Phillies' jersey and cap, also sounded confident when she said, "Phillies in six." Jessica, born 90 miles south but who now lives in New York, guaranteed Phils in five, while her sister, Alyson, was torn.
"During the year, I root for the Yankees," she said, almost embarrassed in case she was overheard. "But I'm rooting for my Phillies."
As Utley went yard one time, then a second time, and the Phillies knocked out Sabathia and roughed up the Yankees' bullpen, the ever-confident and relaxed Todd, along with his fellow fanatics, fist-pumped, jumped and hugged as the hot cheesesteaks, though not free anymore, kept flying out of the kitchen.
In the ninth, with Alex Rodriguez striking out again and Jorge Posada also unable to put wood on the ball, it seemed as if the party at Shorty's, already a good seven hours in, had just begun.
Still, at the end of the night, there were a few things both Yankees and Philly fans seemed to agree on: It was only one game, there's another to be played Thursday, and whatever the outcome, everybody in Shorty's clearly hated the Mets.
Barry Wittenstein is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.